We are at the middle of the week, and it appears the weather is getting a little warmer, which is a little bit of good news. Whilst there is still significant cause to be cautious in relation to the virus, we are hearing of more and more people being offered the virus. That can only be good news and we would encourage people to have the vaccine.
If you haven’t yet registered for our AGM, we give you a prompt to do so now:
Tues 23 February 1pm until 2pm https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcsduygrD8uE9TC_n-UJVa10dTJsyAPGH6q
Wed 3 March 5:30pm until 6:30pm https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0uc-qorTspE9LL2CZYSI8hVjjQO9jSyHum
Shielding – new defintion
The Government announced yesterday that announced that an additional 2 million people will be classed as shielding. This follows the adoption of a method that takes account of ethnicity and social deprivation in assessing the level of risk. We welcome this step; however this is not a new method. You may recall Wirral Unison reached an agreement with Wirral Council about six months ago that these factors would be included in individual risk assessments and the combination of indicators should be considered in deciding the level of risk. Of course when we pressed for this approach we were merely applying scientific information that was readily available. This Government, that once accused others of dithering, has delayed applying this method for months, with people being put at increased and unnecessary risk for a number of months.
Ethnicity and deprivation are now for the first time been recognised as risk factors in new modelling, which will lead to nearly 2 million more people being advised to shield and 800,000 being fast-tracked for vaccines. The risk analysis tool now to be used takes into account a multiplicity of health conditions and circumstances that increase people’s likelihood of death, from obesity and severe mental health problems to homelessness. Among the many factors the model takes into account are ethnicity and postcode, which gives a measure of economic deprivation. The death rates from Covid have been higher among people from black, ethnic minority and Asian communities and also people from poorer neighbourhoods with cramped housing. Body mass index will also be factored in, because obesity is known to increase the risk of severe illness.
All those newly identified will get a letter from their GP suggesting they shield until at least 31 March, which is later than the current date of 21 February. Most have already been vaccinated, because of their age or a particular health problem. The rest will now be prioritised as part of the group with underlying health conditions who are being called up.
The Government even in making this announcement still seek to shirk responsibility by saying that if people cannot work from home they may be eligible for stator sick pay (SSP). Frankly that is not good enough: we will be pressing that our members impacted by this receive their normal pay, if this impacts you please get in touch. The full shielding guidance can be found here.
Redundancy Payment Cap
Last year the government introduced a cap of £95k on redundancy or exit payments in the public sector; this was under the guise of stopping ‘fat cats’ leaving with fat exit payments. However under the cover of this they went further to include pension payments within this cap; that meant even workers earning below £30k could have their payments cut on leave the Council. A particular harsh attack on those who had dedicated 30 years or more to the public sector. Not many people would consider a worker on less than £30k a ‘fat cat’.
However on Friday night the government announced that Regulations capping public sector exit payments at £95,000 had been revoked “after a review found the cap may have had ‘unintended consequences’.” The ‘unintended consequences’ were not specified by the government but clearly relate to the attack on pensions. We must be clear that the government have backed down as a result of union pressure in particular led by Unison North West Region. We know this will provide some relief to members approaching the end of their working lives. Of course they may have backed down this time but we know they always see the public sector as an easy target; so we will need to be ready if the come back to this issue.
Public Sector Pay
And whilst we are talking of attacks on the public sector, you may recall that the Government announced a public sector pay freeze in the autumn, as they seek to make ordinary workers pay for the cost of Covid. The dedication, skill and expertise of public sector workers has never been more apparent than it is now, but the government is wrong if they think a clap on the doorstep will provide sufficient recognition.
On Monday the three main local government unions â€‹have submitted a pay claim â€‹for 2021/22, which beginâ€‹s to redress a decade of cuts and recogniseâ€‹s the key role â€‹played in the pandemic â€‹by school and council staff. We want to see a ‘substantial’ pay increase from this April with a wage rise of at least 10% for all council â€‹and school support employees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. â€‹Under the claim, the â€‹pay of the lowest paid workers â€‹would go above £10 per hour – â€‹lifting them above the â€‹real â€‹living â€‹wage of £9.50 per hour.
UNISON, GMB and Uniteâ€‹ – which between us represent 1.4 million council and school employees – know that only a significant pay award can begin to tackle ten years of savage local authority cuts and pay restraint. Our members working in local government have seen up to 25% wiped from the value of their pay. â€‹The Covid crisis has been a reminder that local authorities are vital to the communities they serveâ€‹, â€‹especially during â€‹the past hugely challenging year. Staff deserve better pay and working conditions. In 2008 ordinary workers paid the cost of the financial crisis, and are paying still, whilst the wealthy prospered through the bailouts. We will not fall for the same mistake again.
We are also in the initial stages of drawing together our pay claim for Magenta Living. We will keep members updated of our progress on this.
We know many of you may not see this email until Thursday morning; but this evening Wirral’s Policy and Resources Committee will be considering which of their Budget options, to take forward. We have made our opposition known to the many cuts proposed in the documents. We are been loud and clear that the proposed service closures including Europa Pools, Woodchurch Leisure Centre, Golf, Williamson Art Gallery and School Crossing Patrols MUST STOP!. Hopefully our voice will influence the decisions made tonight.
That’s all for today everyone, we do hope you continue to find our email updates of use.
As always, please do pass our updates on to colleagues and encourage them to join Unison if they haven’t already. Here’s the link to join up! JOIN UNISON
We’ll be back in touch next week with further updates. Enjoy your weekend.
Your Wirral Unison Team
Central email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone: 07899713498 or 07899715085